CPE 1 offers pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade classes. In a CPE 1 classroom, you won’t see a teacher lecturing before a passive group, or desks in rows. Classrooms are set up more like working laboratories, with research materials and tables for group work. A typical day consists of periods when the students work independently or in small groups and periods when they come together for discussion, problem-solving, and other large group activities.
Enter a room at project time and experience every child engaged in productive activity. Projects evolve over time to allow children to explore, in depth, an area of their own interest. Work is a natural, organic process that allows people to know themselves and those with whom they work and live. The way children work with materials (blocks, sand, paint, etc.) provides information that is addressed in the core curriculum. Responsibility for choices and materials are metaphors for the student as a learner.
CPE 1’s atmosphere is informal and child-centered. All children and adults call each other by their first names. Teachers tailor aspects of their curriculum to their students’ interests. Children often generate their own projects that cross curricula. For example, a child’s interest in the subway may generate a group project in map-making and transportation.
CPE 1 works hard to teach self-discipline and to keep students engaged. At daily class meetings staff and students discuss ways to solve any problems that arise. When students disrupt the classroom, teachers use a variety of effective, non-punitive strategies to help them calm down and refocus their energies. They may be asked to spend some short amount of time outside of the group, often with another teacher who knows them.